At 14, Camille Winbush has created one of TV's most complex and affecting teen characters, the vulnerable and attitudinal big sister Vanessa on Fox's The Bernie Mac Show. TV Guide Online caught up with the actress (and accomplished gymnast) during a break in filming.
TV Guide Online: Vanessa had a boyfriend for an episode this season. Did that storyline spring from real life or the imagination of the writers?
Camille Winbush: A bit of both. Sometimes, I'll give the writers ideas for things that they hear me talking about, like gymnastics. That's something I really do, so they decided to put it in the script back in 2003. They often take different pieces from my life and put it into Vanessa's.
TVGO: Is it difficult to compete in club gymnastics while also handling your role on the show and your schoolwork?
Winbush: At times it's hard having to work out the scheduling and to actually make it to practice. But I've learned to deal with it. During our competition season, my coach tells me to come in whenever I can, and don't worry about being late. Get what you need to get done.
TVGO: Are you a serious student?
Winbush: When I want to be. When it comes time to buckle down and pay attention and get my work done I will, but at times, I can be just be in space.
TVGO: Which subjects come easily?
Winbush: Science and geography.
TVGO: Which come with difficulty?
Winbush: Algebra. I have to take it slow so I can fully understand it. Because if you don't understand it from the beginning, once you get deeper into it, it gets even harder.
TVGO: Who's funny on the set?
Winbush: Everybody's funny. We all have our own comedy styles.
TVGO: Is it hard or easy to make Bernie laugh?
Winbush: Well, the funny thing is we can make him laugh when we're not trying to by just being ourselves.
TVGO: Do you get letters from fans about Vanessa?
Winbush: Yes, there's a part of her that's in every girl. Everything that she's been through? Some kid out there has been through some of the same things.
TVGO: Your character had to grow up almost too fast in some ways and had to take on an air of parental responsibility.
Winbush: She was the one who took care of the younger kids, so she missed out on her childhood. Now she's in her teen years and she has somebody else to help out, and she doesn't quite know how to deal with it. She doesn't know anything else, other than taking care of them. So, it's going to take time for her to fully adjust to having her own life and her own room — not having to share everything.
TVGO: And I think the writers and producers are very wise to not make that happen suddenly.
Winbush: Yeah, they're very good about making things come progressively, but enough to where there's some progress.
TVGO: Are you being offered some other roles?
Winbush: I'm going out for a few movies right now, so hopefully... they'll make the right decision and pick me.
TVGO: What kind of movie would you like to do?
Winbush: I'd like to do comedy and drama — and an action movie would be cool.
TVGO: Maybe they should make an Agent Cody Banks-style movie for you.
Winbush: Yeah, now that's a good idea.